Work on Rokkasho fuel reprocessing plant to be ‘completed’ by October

Kyodo

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. said Thursday it expects its spent fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho village, Aomori Prefecture, to pass the state’s safety assessment and be ready for operation in October 2014.

The plan was explained to local governments concerned, as the operator is seeking to apply for the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening of its experimental reprocessing plant possibly later in the month.

A Japan Nuclear Fuel official said October 2014 will mark the plant’s “completion” and its actual operation will start after securing local consent.

The plant is tasked with playing a key role in Japan’s fuel recycling policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium and reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.

But whether the schedule will be realized largely depends on the progress of the safety screening process.

Japan has revamped safety requirements for commercial nuclear reactors and facilities handling nuclear fuel since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which proved past regulations ineffective.

Under the new standards, spent fuel reprocessing facilities are required to take measures to deal with severe accidents such as criticality incidents and hydrogen explosions. They are also required to enhance protection against earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Japan Nuclear Fuel said costs to install additional steps to counter severe accidents and earthquakes will reach ¥30 billion.

The company started building the plant in 1993, and a trial operation began in March 2006. But its completion has been repeatedly postponed.